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Liberal dark-money group returns to focus on Lauren Boebert (Local Tips & Reviews)

A dark-money political group aligned with Democrats that worked to block Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s reelection two years ago has been revived to target GOP U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s as she vies for a third term representing Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.

Rocky Mountain Values, a nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose its donors, is among the first major political groups to target Boebert’s 2024 reelection effort, though it likely won’t be the last after the congresswoman narrowly won a second term in November.

The organization kicked off its latest campaign Monday in Durango, the same day the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced it will target Boebert next year.

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Boebert, who lives in Garfield County, won reelection in 2022 by 546 votes after a recount in the race with Democratic challenger, former Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch. He announced in February that he’s seeking a rematch, though two other Democrats also have filed to run in the 3rd District. 

National Democratic groups spent virtually no time or money in the contest in 2022 because they assumed Boebert would easily win reelection in her Republican-leaning district, which spans across the Western Slope into Pueblo and southeastern Colorado. But the 3rd District contest was one of the closest congressional races in the country, exposing Boebert’s vulnerability and giving Democrats hope they might be able to dislodge the controversial representative. 

National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Delanie Bomar discounted the latest effort. “The DCCC has no chance in this Republican stronghold, and come 2024, Colorado’s 3rd District will once again reject radical Democrats,” Bomar said. 

Cook Political Report rates the 2024 contest as “leans Republican.”

Rocky Mountain Values first surfaced in 2019, airing TV ads attacking Gardner more than a year ahead of his 2020 reelection contest. The group spent $5.7 million on TV and digital ads in 2019 and 2020, all criticizing Gardner. The Republican lost to U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, by 9 percentage points. 

While the group doesn’t disclose its donors, federal tax filings revealed that it received $4 million in 2019 from Sixteen Thirty Fund, a national dark-money nonprofit that supports Democratic candidates and causes. Rocky Mountain Values has in the past listed its member groups, including environmental organizations, Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado and others.

The group’s messaging doesn’t mention voting for or against candidates, which would require them to disclose donors and spending to the Federal Election Commission. Instead, it typically encourages people to contact elected representatives about their stance on specific issues.

This year, the group is run by high-profile, experienced Democratic political operatives. Justin Lamorte, who managed U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s successful reelection bid in 2022, is executive director. Katie Stewart, a former political director for the Colorado Democratic Party and Durango resident, is the group’s regional organizing director. And Amber Miller, who served as spokeswoman for Gov. Jared Polis’ 2022 campaign and before that was Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s spokeswoman, is the communications director.

“Rocky Mountain Values will help Coloradans in the 3rd District make their voices heard to urge Rep. Lauren Boebert to stand up for Colorado values and stop siding with the most extreme members of her party,” Lamorte said in a statement.

Rocky Mountain Values will hold events and eventually air TV ads criticizing Boebert. It won’t, however, take a position in the Democratic primary in Boebert’s 3rd Congressional District. 

The group collaborated on Monday’s event with Courage for America, a nonprofit that fights extremism, focused on criticizing Boebert for her stance on federal spending as it related to Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits and other government programs.

Courage for America is a national nonprofit (another dark-money group) created late last year to battle the new U.S. House Republican majority. The group is touring 13 congressional districts with a “Back Off Our Benefits” message.

Boebert is among 31 Republicans targeted by the DCCC. The Welcome PAC, another Democratic group, is also targeting Boebert

After defeating former U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, in the 2020 Republican primary in the 3rd District and winning the general election, Boebert joined a vocal group of GOP lawmakers who fiercely support former President Donald Trump and have clashed with the more traditional wing of the Republican Party.

In January, Boebert opposed the election of California Republican Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker. But she eventually helped him win the job on the 15th round of voting by voting “present.” 

As a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, she attacked former Twitter employees in February for suppressing her account for a tweet she said was a joke. Last week, she falsely accused a Washington, D.C., official of decriminalizing public urination. And in introducing a measure to remove gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protection, Boebert opened by showing photos of aborted fetuses, saying babies should be listed as endangered.

But the congresswoman is also promoting her wins on the House floor, including two bills she’s cosponsoring passing. The American Energy Act would make it easier to drill for oil on federal lands, while the other measure would reduce the amount of time to file lawsuits over major infrastructure projects. Both are likely to fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“I’m working every day to be a strong legislator and to deliver results,” Boebert said in a written statement from her campaign. “I think I’ve been surprising my detractors by introducing and passing a growing list of bipartisan legislation and amendments. The success I’m achieving legislatively is proving my efforts to change the rules are helping make Congress more effective and our country stronger.”

Rocky Mountain Values’ foray into the 3rd Congressional contest isn’t the first for dark-money groups. 

Sixteen Thirty Fund also tested the waters in the 3rd District in 2018, when Tipton easily won reelection. That year, two groups it funded, Colorado United for Families and Health Care FAQs, aired ads in the 3rd District centered on health care in late April and early summer, spending about $645,000

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